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Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) Satellite Internet Service Developments for 2020

I posted reviews of important LEO-satellite Internet service developments during 2017, 2018 and 2019. I've updated those posts during the years and have 18 new posts for 2020. In 2020 we saw increased effort from China, OneWeb's bankruptcy and restructuring with new ownership and prospects, Amazon investng in space-related infrastructure, Telesat making steady progress, SpaceX making rapid progress and satellite and debris tracking and collision-avoidsnce service startups. The following are brief summaries of and links to the 2020 posts.

China will be a formidable satellite Internet service competitor (Jan 28) – This post describes three planned Chinese constellations, at least one of which will focus on broadband Internet service. Testing has begun and satellite mamufacturing capacity is being developed. They will serve both domestic and international users as part of China's global Digital Silk Road infrastructure program and are funded by both private and government investment.

LEO Broadband Will Create Millions of Jobs (Feb 13) – SpcaceX is recruiting hard-working, trustworthy people with common sense regardless of their education. They will train new-hires. This was commmon practice in the 1960s, when IBM had a formal two-year training program for new hires and the 1950s when the US government paid IBM to hire and train 3,000 programmers for the SAGE early-warning system.

Geely's LEO constellation for mobile vehicle connectivity (Mar 4) – The Geely Holding Group (GHG), a diversified, private Chinese conglomerate that is best known as an auto manufacturer, began construction of an intelligent satellite production and testing facility.

OneWeb is bankrupt — who will buy their assets? (Mar 31) – OneWeb filed for bankruptcy and partnership of the British government and Bharti Global limited, an Indian telecommunication conglomerate serving parts of Asia and Africa, bid a billion dollars to acquire OneWeb's assets and restart the company.

SpaceX applies for a constellation re-design and announces beta test dates. (Apr 24) SpaceX applied for a redesign of their constellation. If approved, the number of satellites would essentially be unchanged, but many would be at lower altitude and some will be moved to polar orbits enabling better coverage of far northern and southren latitudes.

Can SpaceX launch 30,000 second-generation Starlink satellites? Maybe. (Jun 8) – SpaceX applied for permission to launch 30,000 "second-generation" Starlink broadband Internet satellites. This post describes the proposed constellation and speculates on their ability to fund, manufacture and launch so many satellites and the feasibility of dealing with the space debris that the effort would create.

Rural broadband subsidy — what's the rush? (Jun 13) – The Federal Communications Commission adopted procedures for Phase I of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund auction to award up to $16 billion in support over 10 years for the deployment of fixed broadband networks. The post describes the program and questions the categorization of satellite-based services as high-latency and the rush to allocate the funds.

Questions on the impact of trees on SpaceX Starlink (Jun 24) – This post raises a number of questions about the impact of trees and other obstructions as well as rain and snow on SpaceX Starlink service.

Amazon Aerospace and Satellite Solutions — integrating satellites and terrestrial services (Jul 6) – Amazon announced Amazon Web Services Aerospace and Satellite Solutions to market and assist in the design and implementation of complex space/terrestrial systems. SpaceX has a substantial lead in launch and satellite deployment and Amazon has superior terrestrial resources and is building the organization and infrastructure to connect them to space.

OneWeb rises from the ashes — maybe (Jul 22) – A consortium of the UK Government and Bharti Enterprises bought bankrupt OneWeb, a company that had raised $3.2 billion and had acquired valuable spectrum rights, for $1 billion. While they lag behind SpaceX and will need more capital, they have a number of advantages and I hope they succeed.

Bill Gates has not forgotten Teledesic (Sep 17) – Gates was a founding investor in Teledesic, the first attempt at LEO satellite Internet connectivity, but it failed. Today, he is a major investor in Kymeta, a leading supplier of electronically-steered antennas and Microsoft tested satellite access to their Azure cloud services. Microsoft does not want to miss out on space connectivity and services.

A new Chinese broadband satellite constellation (Oct 2) – China applied for specturm for a major new LEO satellite constellation with 12,992 satellites, roughly half of which will orbit at around 550 km and half at 1,145 km. SpaceX is off to a fast start and will be first to offer connectivity in America and Europe, OneWeb, through Bharti, has an edge in Asia and Africa and the Chinese companies have the same in Digital Silk Road nations.

SpaceX Starlink is on a roll (Oct 23) – SpaceX entered into a partnership with Microsoft to connect to their Azure cloud, giving them an answer to Project Kuiper's integration with Amazon Web Services and infrastructure. They also began offering beta service to a few individuals and organizations in the northern US and solicited applications for a public beta test and saw such strong demand that they requested an increase in the number of authorized US terminals. They have also registered 14 shell companies in 13 foreign nations and are deploying ground stations in north America and Europe.

SpaceX Starlink beta, phase two (Oct 28) – Starlink opened beta testing to the public. Applicants must be between 42 and 53 degrees north lattitude. The inital locations must be in the US and the price is $99 per month for the service $499 for a terminal.

Satellite and space debris tracking as a service (Nov 6) – LeoLabs and Northstar are offering satellite and debris tracking and collision avoidance as a service. LeoLabs is using terrestrial, phased-array radar and Northstar is tracking from satellites. Tracking and collision avoidance is a technical and political problem because it requires collaboration and data sharing among government and private satellite operators from all nations.

Starlink will be priced to be affordable (Nov 14) – SpaceX and others will have to charge less for connecivity in developing nations if their service is to be affordable and fully use the capacity of the constellation. Charging more in affluent markets will increase revenue and tend to reduce the "digital divide" — good business and good karma.

OneWeb is out of bankruptcy, but is not out of the woods (Nov 25) – OneWeb has emerged from bankruptcy with Bharti and the UK governmenet having 42.2% ownership each. Some of their previous agreements are in place and some inevestors are still participating. They will have to raise more capital and are well behind SpaceX, but have acquired assets that had cost $3.3 billion and have marketing advantages in several areas. We need competition and I hope they succeed.

Telesat update — proposal for a larger constellation, Canadian and DARPA contracts, a planned IPO and more (Dec 28) – Telesat has submitted a plan calling for an increase in the number of satellites they launch to 1,671. While they have not yet launched production satellites, they have run many tests and demonstrations and have research contracts with the US and Canadian governments, Canadian government support, a steady stream of income from their 50-year old geostationary satellite business, ground stations in the north and plans for an IPO to finance the LEO constellation.

Written by Larry Press, Professor of Information Systems at California State University


Oscars International Race Breaks Record With 93 Entries

The Academy on Friday unveiled to its voters a record 93 films will compete in the Best International Feature Film category — which will no doubt leading to a busy four weeks of viewing before first-round voting begins on Feb. 1.

Helped by COVID-inspired rules that relaxed the usual entry requirements, the films topped the record of 92 entries set in 2017, as TheWrap suggested they likely would in December. The films include a record 34 female directors, seven more than the previous high of 27 set last year.

This is not the official list of qualifying films, which is expected to be released by the Academy later in January. But these 93 films are all in the members-only online screening room devoted to the category, and each of them has been put on a “required viewing” list for one-fourth of the voters. It is unlikely that any of the films will be disqualified at this point, although last year two films were deemed ineligible even after the list of contenders had been announced, dropping the number of 2019 contenders from 93 to 91.

Also Read: Oscars International Entries, 2020: The Complete List So Far

This year, at least three films — Canada’s “Funny Boy,” Portugal’s “Listen” and Belarus’ “Persian Lessons” — were submitted but turned down by the Academy, the first two for containing too much English dialogue and the Belarus entry for not having enough creative input from that country. Canada and Portugal submitted alternate films prior to the deadline. Additional problems caused submissions from Bhutan and Uzbekistan to be ineligible, while Algeria submitted “Heliopolis” but later withdrew it.

Among the films that made the cut are Denmark’s “Another Round,” Romania’s documentary “Collective,” Mexico’s “I’m No Longer Here,” the Ivory Coast’s “Night of the Kings,” Switzerland’s “My Little Sister,” Poland’s “Never Gonna Snow Again,” France’s “Two of Us,” Netherlands’ “Bulado,” Bosnia & Herzegovina’s “Quo Vadis, Aida?” and Russia’s “Dear Comrades,” which could receive support from the general voters that choose seven of the films on a shortlist that will be announced on Feb. 9; and Guatemala’s “La Llorona,” Portugal’s “Vitalina Varela,” Ukraine’s “Atlantis,” Taiwan’s “A Sun,” Georgia’s “Beginning” and Lesotho’s “This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection,” which could find favor with the executive committee that will fill the final three spots on the shortlist.

But in a year with few slam-dunk choices on the order of recent nominees “Parasite,” “Roma,” “Cold War,” “Les Miserables” and “Pain and Glory,” the battle for the nomination may be more wide-open than usual.

Also Read: After 'Parasite' and 'Roma,' What Can the Oscars International Race Do for an Encore?

It’s also more uncertain when it comes to who will vote. First-round balloting is open to all Academy members for the first time ever, which could shift the balance of power away from the Los Angeles-based members who have attended special screenings and determined the bulk of the shortlist for years. But members are receiving their lists of “required viewing” only three-and-a-half weeks before phase-one voting begins, and exactly four weeks before it ends on Feb. 5. And in order for votes to count, members must see a minimum of 12 films from their required-viewing lists, which consist of 23 films (Groups 1, 2 and 3) or 24 films (Group 4).

For members who have been watching the films since they began to be placed in the category’s online screening room, those numbers are within reach, assuming that enough of the movies they’ve seen are on the required-viewing list. But if voters have waited to receive those lists so they know which films to focus on — a situation that anecdotal evidence suggests some have done — they are now faced with watching four or five international movies a week for the rest of January, a prospect that could result in less-motivated participants dropping out.

TheWrap has compiled a list of the eligible films, with descriptions and links to trailers.

Here are the films that have been placed in the Academy screening room and assigned to voters in the category:

Albania: “Open Door”
Argentina: “The Sleepwalkers”
Armenia: “Songs of Solomon”
Austria: “What We Wanted”
Bangladesh: “Sincerely Yours, Dhaka”
Belgium: “Working Girls”
Bolivia: “Chaco”
Bosnia & Herzegovina: “Quo Vadis, Aida?”
Brazil: “Babenco – Tell Me When I Die”
Bulgaria: “The Father”
Cambodia: “Fathers”
Cameroon: “The Fisherman’s Diary”
Canada: “14 Days, 12 Nights”
Chile: “The Mole Agent”
China: “Leap”
Colombia: “Memories of My Father”
Costa Rica: “Land of Ashes”
Croatia: “Extracurricular”
Cuba: “Buscando a Casal”
Czech Republic: “Charlatan”
Denmark: “Another Round”
Dominican Republic: “A State of Madness”
Ecuador: “Emptiness”
Egypt: “When We’re Born”
Estonia: “The Last Ones”
Finland: “Tove”
France: “Two of Us”
Georgia: “Beginning”?Germany: “And Tomorrow the Entire World”
Greece: “Apples”
Guatemala: “La Llorona”
Honduras: “Days of Light”
Hong Kong: “Better Days”
Hungary: “Preparations to Be Together for an Unknown Period of Time”
Iceland: “Agnes Joy”
India: “Jallikattu”
Indonesia: “Impetigore”
Iran: “Sun Children”
Ireland: “Arracht”
Israel: “Asia”
Italy: “Notturno”
Ivory Coast: “Night of the Kings”
Japan: “True Mothers”
Jordan: 200 Meters”
Kazakhstan: “The Crying Steppe”
Kenya: “The Letter”
Kosovo: “Exile”
Kyrgyzstan: “Running to the Sky”
Latvia: “Blizzard of Souls”
Lebanon: “Broken Keys”
Lesotho: “This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection”
Lithuania: “Nova Lituania”
Luxembourg: “River Tales”
Malaysia: “Roh”
Mexico: “I’m No Longer Here”
Mongolia: “Veins of the World”
Montenegro: “Breasts”
Morocco: “The Unknown Saint”
Netherlands: “Bulado”
Nigeria: “The Milkmaid”
North Macedonia: “Willow”
Norway: “Hope”
Pakistan: “Circus of Life”
Palestine: “Gaza, Mon Amour”
Panama: “Operation Just Cause”
Paraguay: “Killing the Dead”
Peru: “Song Without a Name”
Philippines: “Mindanao”
Poland: “Never Gonna Snow Again”
Portugal: “Vitalina Varela”
Romania: “Collective”
Russia: “Dear Comrades!”
Saudi Arabia: “Scales”
Senegal: “Nafi’s Father”
Serbia: “Dara of Jasenovac”
Singapore: “Wet Season”
Slovakia: “The Auschwitz Report”
Slovenia: “Stories From the Chestnut Woods”
South Africa: “Toorbos”
South Korea: “The Man Standing Next”
Spain: “The Endless Trench”
Sudan: “You Will Die at Twenty”
Suriname: “Wired”
Sweden: “Charter”
Switzerland: “My Little Sister”
Taiwan: “A Sun”
Thailand: “Happy Old Year”
Tunisia: “The Man Who Sold His Skin”
Turkey: “Miracle in Cell No. 7”
Ukraine: “Atlantis”
Uruguay: “Aleli”
Venezuela: “Once Upon a Time in Venezuela”
Vietnam: “Dreamy Eyes”

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